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2020 FEE & BILLING SURVEY REPORT Zweig Group’s 2020 Fee & Billing Survey Report of AEC Firms is the standard guideline for AEC industry firms looking to benchmark fees, billing rates, and billing practices, and evaluate productivity and utilization. Data was collected from an online survey of architecture, engineering, planning, construction, and environmental consulting industry professionals. The 2020 edition includes data on fee structures for every major market type in the AEC industry, billing rates and chargeability statistics for 33 levels of employee (ranging from clerks to principals), statistics on consultant fees and reimbursable expenses, and a variety of statistics related to payment collection methods and experiences. The 2020 Fee & Billing Survey Report of AEC Firms includes the following fee markets:

❚ ❚ Commercial development ❚ ❚ Corporate facilities ❚ ❚ Education (K-12) ❚ ❚ Education (higher education) ❚ ❚ Healthcare

❚ ❚ Marine ❚ ❚ Transportation ❚ ❚ Entertainment ❚ ❚ Federal/state/municipal ❚ ❚ Industrial facilities

❚ ❚ Multi-family residential ❚ ❚ Single-family residential ❚ ❚ Religious ❚ ❚ Environmental – public ❚ ❚ Environmental – private

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undisclosed conditions” lead to a change, the situation is murkier, but can still be handled with adequate and timely communication. Here are a few communication tips: 1)The mandatory weekly check-in. A lot of firms do this, but many don’t. You have to be religious about timely and regular check-ins with clients and any project stakeholders. Everything that could cause a future issue or conflict needs to be discussed. This can be a phone call or as simple as an email. Most importantly, it builds trust – which will help you out in spades if conflicts arise. 2)Share information internally – preferably at least to all members of the project team. According to the 2020 Fee and Billing Report of AEC Firms , 78 percent of firms allow all firm members to see the firm’s billing rates and 77 percent allow everyone to see project fees. Make sure anyone who is working on the project knows what is included in the contract –and what’s not. 3)Share your fee breakdowns with clients. Fee transparency on the client side is remarkably less – just over half (56 percent) do this on a case-by-case basis. Fifteen percent of AEC firms always show a client what goes into their fee, and 8 percent never divulge what goes into a project’s total fee. 4)Avoid discounts, and when they are given, explicitly state them in the contract. Zweig Group data shows 78 percent of firms discount project fees, most often by discounting the final price (69 percent) but also by providing lower billing rates/ multipliers. This is important because if another similar project is undertaken at a later date without a discount, the client needs to understand why. It’s not all chaos out there, but it’s more important than ever to maintain project profitability, repeat business, and ensure timely payment. Zweig Group’s Q3 Impacts of COVID-19 on the AEC Industry Survey (post July 2020) asks firms to rank how much certain aspects of their business are impacted by the virus on a 1-5 scale (1 being little to no impact, 5 being impacted very negatively). It was surprising to see that ability to finish current projects within budget (2.32) and ability to finish on time (2.21) were ranked relatively low compared to collection period/accounts receivable (3.0) and ability to obtain new work (4.05). In my particular situation, the entire issue could have been avoided with a single text message, Oftentimes, even on large projects, it really is that easy! Good communication shows compassion to your client – something that’s likely to be returned back to you. CHRISTINA ZWEIG Niehues is director of marketing and media at Zweig Group. Contact her at

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Chad Clinehens | Publisher Sara Parkman | Senior Editor & Designer Christina Zweig | Contributing Editor Liisa Andreassen | Correspondent

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